ANGLICAN 1000: Michael Breen on Missional "extended family" groups & evangelism
By Michael Breen in Plano
March 8, 2012
The simple proposition is that the methodology of Jesus is probably better than ours. His primary thesis is to make disciples first, then make the church.
Today, we seek to graft the discipling context and missioning context together.
Acts 4 is the Scripture for this morning.
Christ is speaking about the double edged sword, that cuts open with one edge and heals with the other. [Prayer: As we receive that word, we pray that your word will produce faith, there would be a mighty rumbling in the heavens as the mustard seed of faith in each of our hearts moves mountains for planting multiple congregations in this nation. ]
Young people get weary of technology. High tech means low touch. I will go back to the whiteboard.
Let's create another matrix. What did Jesus summarize as the task of the disciple? Matt 7: 24 "Therefore, everyone who hears these words... and the wise man built his house on the rock. But the foolish many built his house upon the sand..."
This is what the counter-cultural kingdom is all about: if you are to be my disciples, you will function like the wise ones of old. Jesus teaches the connection of the wisdom tradition and discipleship. Wise men and women hear and put into practice. Foolish ones hear and do not put into practice. House on sand.
Vertical axis is hearing
Horizontal axis is action.
Upper right quadrant of disciple, is that we hear and then we act. Not a straight line, but a standard wave model of ups and downs. The mission of God is the person of Jesus. Then we go to John 1:14 "The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory...grace and truth"
Vertical axis is WORD;
Horizontal axis is flesh.
Discipleship and mission take place in the same space. If you are going to do discipleship, the best way is to have your disciples be on mission with you. As they hear the words of Christ, the living words, spoken through the risen Lord, they will then see the result of living his mission through their lives. Discipleship and mission cannot be separated. They function in same space, the upper right quadrant of the matrix.
When Jesus talks of making a temporary dwelling, the understanding of the 1st readers is through the filter of their culture. Jesus the Son of God has come to make his home among us. He has come to make a place where he can gather an extended family. That's the way to grasp it. Today we call it a missional family or a life group or a cell group. It is important to understand what it means to do mission and grasp that vehicle of missional activity: the extended family. It is deeply human and built into the human heart in every culture down through the centuries. The human condition, the life of the human being, is usually described as part of a human family. Within the family, people are given nurture and given enterprise, vision and sense of destiny down through the centuries of Christian history.
None of the Biblical languages have name/word for nuclear family. The only word used for family is extended family. The familiar language of the Bible references the extended family experience the oikos: household, house or family. We have put another filter in the way, called nuclear family. This nuclear family is the worn down nub of human existence. We've tried it for 100 years and results: most marriages fail and most kids are messed up. Not the condition until the advent of the 20th century. Fact is that divorce was very low and kids were not as messed up. Kids today struggle to find identity, discover who they are. Previously, they found their place within the extended family which no longer exists. Multigenerational families.
As church planters, some of our experiences as western Christians don't help us.
Back to Acts 4: "The disciples were together... the breaking of bread and the prayers. Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved." These are the 4 legs of the chair: Apostles teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayers. Essential for formation of young people. You don't need me to add anything to that. When you read this text, you see a daily experience that the Holy Spirit saw fit to insure happened every day; that daily experience at the formation of the church as temple and home.
The Holy Spirit made no mistakes when he brought the church into being. If the Holy Spirit saw fit to emphasize something so largely, that daily experience of temple and home, he would want us to take notice.
Proposition: If we are sure that temple and home are not categories and are on the same continuum every day. The Early church understood that temple worship every day and home fellowship was important . Home is not a place, but an extended family made up of blood and non-blood people. This was the normative experience of human beings. Certainly more than 20 on most occasions.
A lot of work has been done since 60's on how humans interact in proximity with each other. Four definitions of space: 1) intimate space, filled by 2-3 people. Jesus had intimate space of Peter James and John, where we can be close enough to somebody and not feel there is anything weird about it.
2) personal space. Generally the space between 6-14 people, filled usually by nuclear family. Used for nurture and formation of the person. Jesus began discipling in this space. Same-gender imitation and teaching. Jesus did most of his discipling in the personal space, not intimate space. When Jesus is in intimate space, it is an evangelistic opportunity. i.e., Woman at the well; Nicodemus.
3) social space. Somewhere between 20- and 70 people. The space where people indentify/discover enterprise and identity. Filled by extended family.
4) outside 70 is public sector.
Intimate space can work in personal; personal can work in social, but you need public from time to time. It provides tribal connection and inspiration. We set some spaces up for public space engagement. This room is a public space. The interaction here is about tribal identity and inspiration. You don't need it every day, but upon occasion.... It is essential.
So we have temple and home as the continuum of the early church. But the Lord calls it gathered and scattered. By Acts chapter 8 we see persecution. 8: "after the death of Stephen, all were scattered. .."
By what means? Individuals that are scattered are usually dead in a few days. But this scattering is the extended family group. Paul knows that he doesn't have to go to temple to persecute Christians. He goes from home to home seeking to destroy the church. He goes to the extended family meeting place and they are driven out into the local wilderness. The Lord uses persecution to drive people out to Samaria and, "to the end of the earth." Acts 11: 19-21 Again, the word is scattered. " Now those who had been scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen, went to Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch... some went to the Greeks and a great number believed and returned to the Lord."
Clearly there is an expectation that persecution scatters people but builds the kingdom. Intentional scattering for the first time. Movement on the continuum. Make no mistake in understanding here. They are small special forces like missionary teams sent out by Paul. The principle way of sending in next 100 years is through the extended family. A person like Lydia, who identifies herself as a Jesus person, extended the invitation to come and stay in my house. Stay with my extended family. The church over the next 270 years, grows under the most tremendous persecution. In that time goes from 120 people to 56 million people. One of world's great sociologists charts the impact that the church has had on the culture. More than 50% of the population became Christian in the midst of terrific, appalling persecution.
Imagine how we would react to this persecution. Mockingly: "Prince William and I are so delighted to talk with you about how to be tortured...Going to ask Pippa and she will come and tell us how to be eaten by a lion. And then we will have a mini-course, complete with videos, on how to be burned at the stake. "
How would you become such a hated group that even Caesar would promulgate their total destruction?
When the church is able to gather, it does. Acts 20: Paul to the Ephesian elders, going to Jerusalem and thinks there will be trouble when he gets there... "You know ...from extended family to extended family."
How has Paul conducted his ministry in Ephesus? Look at 19:8. "Paul entered the synagogue and preached boldly there for three months..."
Paul is meeting during siesta hours between 12 and 4 when no one works. A great teaching ministry in the city where Paul can have these temple meetings. It is the public street that is being filled and from extended family to extended family. Will spring from extended family to temple if it has the chance. Hugely important to us as ministers of the gospel. The leaders, who call people to walk with them and work with them, called or employed by them or not, fashion those people into an extended family. They are the people who succeed in mission. Same reasons for success and attrition work in small group.
Why can't small groups do this missional thing? Small enough to care but not big enough to dare. So often what happens in the ministerial life is a worn down nub of a priest's family who had to bring up the drawbridge every day because they were still fighting the barbarians and had to retreat. If you find yourself in extended family, the burden is shared. The context is a context that makes sense. The extended family is hugely important.
Other classification: Roman continuum to Celtic.
596 is seminal date. Pope Gregory the Great, walking through market place. In area where slave are traded but very different people here. Tall, long blonde hair, blue eyes. Gregory asks who these people are. Young assistant said Angles. Angels? No Angles. Anglo-Saxons. Are they Christians? Not as far as we know.
Goes to Augustine, the monk, and tells him to go to England and find these Anglo-Saxons. You know Augustine, the first ABP of Canterbury. He goes with 14 monks and heads to the misty isles of Britain. Pulls into France and sent a letter to Gregory saying not a good idea. Pope said, go and start saving souls.
Augustine contacts the Anglo-Saxon king, finds a church dedicated to St Martin and they begin to do their work. But work of Roman mission is defined by "if you build it, they will come." Deeply effective but deeply institutional. The church builders encounter tribes that are clearly Christians - the Celts. Known as the "perigrinati," the wanderers. Their mission statement is "if you go, you will find them" The Celts spend the long winter months of eating turnips and illuminate the Gospels, they go off in little teams and heal the sick and cast out demons. Start to send them out and they encounter the Germans.
"Who do you worship?", they ask. "gods," is the response. Let's see if your god can hinder our worship this evening. Well, they didn't, so, my God is bigger." They begin to convert the Germans.
At Whitby in 664, they bring all these folks in and the Celts join the Roman church. God uses the combination of Roman and Celtic, the Gathered and the Scattered to establish this church. Large resourcing church sends out bands of people to establish new extended families of believers. And the bishop has his throne and that becomes a cathedral.
This is the model used to evangelize the whole of Europe. What they did is remove the compartments of temple and home, removed the categories that separated them and created the missional continuum.
Almost everyone in this room would agree with this proposition. We are experts in the temple and not in the home. Not in the extended family. We need this skill as a missional expression for the 21st century. We are good at priestcraft/templecraft. Got to get good at the other end of the continuum. 20 years ago in Sheffield, England, we birthed a movement that established the cell group as essential to a thriving church.
The extended family is to the family on mission as the cocoon is to the butterfly. There is a huge group of Christians out there learning about missional community - extended family. We need to get really good at this.
It started in an Anglican Church in England. As part of our history at St. Thomas, Crookes in 1994, we decided that if we put our arms around this continuum, the things God could do are beyond description. When a charismatic leader leaves a church, it usually divides; falls apart. I left St. Thomas in 2004. In the last 8 months, as the overseer of the mission, I've been back to the mother church for reports. In the last 8 months, 800 people in Sheffield have come to the Lord. There are 300 missional communities now, reaching out to the poorest and prostitutes and kids in schools. Churches with no youth groups for 20 years have youth groups now. Sheffield city government is giving money to churches now to continue. Don't tell us what you are doing, just do it. When we embrace the continuum demonstrated in the early church and their writing, we see the Holy Spirit at work.
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